EPL

Premier League data dive: Van Dijk goes 60 not out at Anfield, James leads the way for Chelsea

By Sports Desk March 05, 2022

Liverpool closed the gap on leaders Manchester City with victory over West Ham, while Chelsea tightened their grip on third place in Saturday's Premier League action.

The Blues saw off Burnley 4-0 at Turf Moor, a scoreline that was matched by Aston Villa in their statement victory against Southampton.

Newcastle United, Crystal Palace and Brentford also picked up wins, but it was a bad start to life under new management for Leeds in their early kick-off against Leicester City.

Following another eventful day of Premier League action, Stats Perform delves into the key Opta facts from each of the games.

Leeds United 0-1 Leicester City: New manager, same Leeds

Jesse Marsch's first game as Leeds boss ended in defeat to Leicester as United fell to a fifth successive league loss for the first time since April 2015, when they were in the Championship.

Leeds have failed to score in three straight league matches for the first time in a year, this despite registering 19 shots in their latest blank against Leicester.

United's expected goals (xG) return of 1.95 is their highest without scoring in a league game since June 2020, and the familiar failings were also on show at the other end.

Harvey Barnes' second-half winner means Leeds have gone 13 league games without a clean sheet, their longest-such run since 14 without a shutout ending in August 2016.

This was the fifth straight league game Barnes has scored against Leeds – four of those while playing for Leicester and one for West Brom, making them his favourite opponent.

 

Aston Villa 4-0 Southampton: Coutinho's home comforts

Villa are firmly back on track after registering back-to-back victories under Steven Gerrard for the first time since his opening two games in charge in November.

The Villans put four unanswered goals past Southampton at Villa Park for their biggest Premier League win since thrashing Liverpool 7-2 in October 2020.

Barcelona loanee Philippe Coutinho once again played a big part in the victory by scoring one and assisting another for Douglas Luiz.

Coutinho has now been directly involved in six goals in his first four home league games for Villa, scoring three of his own and setting up as many.

Ollie Watkins had earlier opened the scoring with his 21st Premier League strike since the start of the 2020-21 season, while Danny Ings added to his two assists with Villa's fourth goal.

 

Newcastle United 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Fraser helps end Magpies' duck against Seagulls

For a while things looked incredibly bleak for Newcastle, even after their big-money takeover, but they now find themselves seven points above the relegation zone.

The Magpies held off Brighton to make it eight Premier League games without defeat – no team is on a better such run – with five of those matches ending in victory.

Ryan Fraser opened the scoring to make it two goals in five Premier League outings, matching his tally from his previous 70 appearances, before setting up Fabian Schar.

That was the earliest United have scored twice in a Premier League home game since January 2007 and, despite Lewis Dunk's header, Eddie Howe's side saw out the win.

It marks the first time Newcastle have defeated Brighton in the Premier League in their 10th such encounter, having previously failed to so much as score against them at home.

 

Norwich City 1-3 Brentford: Bees buzzing thanks to Toney treble

After a run of eight Premier League games without a win, Brentford bolstered their survival ambitions with a well-earned victory away at bottom side Norwich.

Ivan Toney was the hero for the Bees with three goals, two of those from the penalty spot, making Brentford the 40th different team to boast a hat-trick scorer.

The Brentford striker now has nine Premier League goals for the season, each of those coming via his right foot.

Teemu Pukki scored a consolation but it was another miserable day for Norwich, whose goal difference of -42 is the worst at this stage since Derby County in 2007-08 (-44).

Not that it will matter a great deal in the grand scheme of things, but Brentford are the first team Pukki has scored home and away against in a single Premier League season.

 

Wolves 0-2 Crystal Palace: Shaky Wanderers lose again

Wolves' European hopes suffered another blow as they fell to a third successive Premier League defeat, as many as they lost in their previous 13.

Bruno Lage's out-of-form side have now conceded six goals in their last four league games, after shipping just five in 12 before that.

Jean-Philippe Mateta came up with the breakthrough from close range for his fourth goal in eight Premier League starts, and Wilfried Zaha doubled Palace's lead from the penalty spot.

Ivory Coast international Zaha has now been directly involved in 83 goals in the competition, the joint-ninth best total for an African player, level with Nwankwo Kanu.

With this latest loss, it is the first time Wolves have lost three games in a row against Palace in their entire league history.

 

Burnley 0-4 Chelsea: Blues cruise at Turf Moor

It was business as usual for Chelsea as they won for a third Premier League game running without conceding in what proved to be a straightforward victory at lowly Burnley.

The Blues scored all four of their goals in the second half as they enjoyed their biggest away league win since October 2018 when also beating Burnley by the same scoreline.

This was the biggest margin of victory for an away side in a game that was goalless at half-time since Tottenham beat Aston Villa 4-0 in December 2012.

Reece James started the scoring and in the process became the first defender from Europe's top five leagues to both score and assist five goals this term in all competitions.

Kai Havertz also netted twice before Christian Pulisic added some gloss to the scoreline – his fourth goal at Turf Moor, matching a record for an away player set by Tottenham's Harry Kane.

 

Liverpool 1-0 West Ham: Reds roll on thanks to Mane

Sadio Mane's first-half goal made it seven wins in a row for Liverpool in the Premier League, their best such streak since a run of 18 when they claimed the title two years ago.

That close-range finish was Mane's 12th of the season in the league, nine of those coming at Anfield – no player has scored more home goals in the division this season.

Trent Alexander-Arnold played the ball into the box for Mane's goal for his 16th assist in all competitions this term, more than he has ever registered in a single campaign.

Liverpool were not at their best and that was particularly true of Mohamed Salah, who failed to score from six shots – only against Stoke in April 2018 (seven) has he fared worse.

Incredibly, Virgil van Dijk has never been on the losing side for Liverpool in 60 Premier League home games at Anfield, setting a new record in that regard.

 

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    Eddie Jones has the respect of England's players but must deliver results if he is to lift pressure from his shoulders ahead of next year's Rugby World Cup, according to former Australia captain George Gregan.

    Experienced coach Jones had his future called into question on the back of another poor Six Nations campaign for England, who finished a distant third behind Ireland and champions France with two wins from five matches.

    Jones is under contract until after the 2023 World Cup and has been given the support of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), although performance director Conor O'Shea confirmed in March the search is under way for the 62-year-old's long-term successor.

    Former Australia boss Jones has repeatedly stated that peaking in time for next year's showpiece in France is his big aim, with his side's three-Test series Down Under – their first summer tour in four years – providing an opportunity to further experiment.

    While Gregan can understand the questions being asked of Jones, the retired scrum-half – who played under Jones for Australia and the Brumbies – understands supporters want to see signs of progress now.

    "I think pressure is always there with a head coach," said Gregan, ahead of Saturday's first Test in Perth. "I'm not going to speak on his behalf, but he knows that as a head coach it's all results driven in professional sport.

    "If you're not getting the results, and particularly if you're not getting consistent Ws [wins], then it does come around: 'Why is the team not performing?' That was definitely the case with Six Nations where there's patches of really good performances.

    "But then obviously some things also which can get taken out of your hands, which is decision-making, you lose plays in the bin, all that kind of stuff. But that's rugby. And so how do you adapt? And how do you adjust? But they're all good experiences and learning experiences.

    "I know there was no Jonny May, there was no Owen Farrell, there's a lot of players missing in that Six Nations campaign, they'll probably take part in this coming tour. And then he's built a nice squad."

    Gregan is supporting The Open Championship Claret Jug Tour, partnered with HSBC UK, and he added: "I think you've always got your eyes a little bit ahead for the World Cup. And that's definitely the case for someone like Eddie and all coaches, but it's also the here and now, and they'll be looking to really improve and try not to drop out of games. I think every good team wants to do that."

    England may have struggled for consistent form, but they have won their last eight Tests against Australia since October 2015, conceding an average of just 14 points per game across the last four of those matches.

    Jones is undefeated against his country of birth during his near-seven-year England tenure, meanwhile, and famously oversaw a series whitewash in 2016.

    Gregan believes the England boss will have the full backing of his dressing room.

    "Eddie is a real players' coach. He's really driven to create the best environment for his players to perform," Gregan said. "He's the hardest marker on the team's performance on himself. I think you see that a lot.

    "He'll deflect to the team when it's doing well, and he’ll take ownership when it's not doing well. That's a classic head coach, and he's never wavered from that. And I think that's why the players really respect him.

    "He's hard, he's very consistent in terms of his messaging. He's very clear on what he wants the team to do. But he also empowers the playing group to try and do that. And that's the coach's coach.

    "And ultimately, I think from my experiences with Eddie, he really wants the players to be sort of taking the reins on the field and making sure they're really comfortable making decisions to provide support.

    "But as you know, coaches are sort of in the grandstand, there's only a limited amount that they can do once the players are on the pitch. I think that's what he tries to do, and all good head coaches try to encourage those leaders and the players on the field to make good decisions, which hopefully put you on the right side of the ledger."

    Australia have lost three straight Tests heading into their first fixture with England this weekend, two of those by a margin of no more than two points – the last time they lost more successive games was a four-game stretch from June to August in 2018.

    However, the Wallabies have won their last four matches on home turf, and four of their past seven when hosting European opposition, which Gregan believes will make for an entertaining series.

    "England playing Australia in any sport is always exciting – particularly rugby," Gregan said. "Obviously there's that little touch with Eddie being a former Wallabies coach and obviously Australian. And he's had a great record against the Wallabies since he's taken over the helm in English rugby.

    "It's gonna be a fantastic series, Dave Rennie, the Wallaby coaching staff and the playing group will be really targeting the series as something, which is another step in the right direction for being consistent and beating some of the top international teams.

    "Perth, Brisbane and Sydney, on the bounce. So, three big Test matches over three consecutive weeks. And I think both teams, stating the obvious, will want to get off to a pretty hot start in Perth, because it's always good to be one up in those types of series."


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    Boulter became only the sixth female British wildcard to progress beyond the second round of the grass-court major at SW19.

  • 2013 No. 1 pick Mark Appel cherishes long-awaited MLB debut 2013 No. 1 pick Mark Appel cherishes long-awaited MLB debut

    Nine years after being selected as the number one pick in the MLB Draft, Mark Appel finally made his major league debut.

    Four days after being promoted from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to the Philadelphia Phillies, Appel took the mound on Wednesday, pitching a scoreless ninth inning in a 4-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

    "It's pretty surreal," Appel said. "I was trying to hold back the tears. It was emotional. It was special."

    The right-hander, who turns 31 on July 15, became the oldest top overall pick to make his major league debut when he stepped foot on the rubber to face Marcell Ozuna at Citizens Bank Park.

    He got Ozuna to line out to first baseman Rhys Hoskins on his first pitch for his first out.

    "Having perspective and remembering even just two, three years ago," Appel said. "Even if I was just trying to come back, it's never been a straight line for me.

    "Even in that whole process, I was lost. I felt like there were times when I was hopeless, that this dream would never happen. So yeah, I was choking back tears."

    A native of suburban Houston, Appel was selected first overall by the Astros in the 2013 draft and spent three years in the Astros system before being traded to the Phillies in a multi-player deal in December 2015.

    He struggled on the mound and battled through injuries in the minors before announcing in early 2018 that he was retiring, saying he was at peace with the decision to step away.

    Three years later, Appel returned to the Phillies organisation but again scuffled at Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2021, posting a 6.06 ERA in 23 appearances – 15 starts.

    He came out again this past spring and this time excelled – as a full-time reliever. In 19 appearances out of the bullpen for the Iron Pigs, Appel went 5-0 with a 1.61 ERA and 24 strikeouts over 28 innings.

    "This whole year has been so special for me," Appel said. "I was coming in, trying to figure out: where do I fit? What's my role going to be?

    "The fact I got to go to Lehigh and learn how to be a reliever and have some success, that was fuel to my fire. I didn't need a call-up for it to be a successful year.

    "In that sense, this is all just extra. I'm just really thankful for it. And I'm glad that I'm able to go out and do my best and get to face the world champions from last year. It's pretty surreal."

    The second batter Appel faced, William Contreras, singled to centre, but on the next batter, Appel notched his first major league strikeout on a 97 mph fastball to Aam Duvall.

    After umpire Quinn Wolcott called strike three, catcher J.T. Realmuto tossed the ball to the Phillies dugout for Appel to keep as a memento of his first major league strikeout.

    The inning ended one batter later when Appel got Phil Gosselin to hit into a fielder's choice – a grounder to shortstop Didi Gregorius, who tossed it to Bryson Scott.

    Appel threw 10 pitches in all – six for strikes – and when he reached the Phillies dugout upon the completion of the inning, he was congratulated by interim manager Rob Thompson and his team-mates.

    "It almost felt like I was being brought into this fraternity of Major League Baseball players," Appel said.

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